- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2007

Congress and war powers

Last week I reread the famous Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer case to ascertain what relevance it had, if any, to current policy disputes over Iraq.

David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, (“Presidential prerogatives,” Op-Ed, Friday) do not, I believe, note the most relevant portion of Justice Robert H. Jackson’s famous concurring opinion, which is worth quoting in its entirety:

“While Congress cannot deprive the president of the command of the Army and Navy, only Congress can provide him with an Army and Navy to command. It is also empowered to make rules for the government and regulation of land and naval forces. By which it may, to some unknown extent, impinge upon even command functions.” (343 US 579, 644)

The court’s opinion written by Justice Hugo Black does not seem to disagree with Justice Jackson’s opinion. Its final paragraph begins as follows: “The founders of this nation entrusted law making powers to the Congress alone in both good times and bad times.” (343 US 579, 589)

The wisdom of various Democratic proposals regarding our occupation-cum-war in Iraq will be for voters to judge in 2008. I think there can be little doubt as to their constitutionality.

In passing I would add that reconstructions do not always fulfill the hopes of a war’s victor. In our own Civil War, while the Union won, it did not achieve its goals in the reconstruction of the former Confederate states. President Rutherford B. Hayes conceded this when he withdrew Federal troops from those states shortly after he took office in 1877. Moreover, the armed forces of the United States do not exist to police foreign civil wars. That most interventionist of presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt, declined to bring our nation into the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.



Dealing with Iran

I disagree with Diana West (“Iran anyone?” Op-Ed, Friday) who sharply criticized the Bush administration for being willing to include Iran in multilateral talks on how to stabilize Iraq. I don’t think the administration is being cowardly or unprincipled by talking to its opponents. I’m glad that the Iraq talks will be held and hope that President Bush might be able to expand them to address the nuclear issue as well.

I totally agree that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a reckless, scary, dangerous anti-Semitic firebrand and shouldn’t have nuclear weapons. But there are so many ways in which a policy of exclusively talking to the morally pure, or even morally non-horrible, can have unintended consequences. Too much toughness, isolation and threats risk backfiring to benefit the reactionaries, hurt democratic reformers and increase the chances of a miscalculation on either side leading to an outbreak of war.

Despite our best intentions in 2003, the Iraq war has cost the lives of 3,166 American service members; at least 50,000 Iraqis, many of them civilians and children, and some say very many more; and hundreds of billions of dollars. Iran is larger demographically and geographically than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Not talking with Iran — or equivalently not talking with them until they do what we tell them to — isn’t working. They’re still refining their uranium.

Engagement and diplomacy might not work, but considering how bleak the alternatives are, at least for now it is the least unappealing prospect available. Kudos to Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for realizing this. Talking doesn’t necessarily mean capitulating.


State College, Pa.

Georgia’s path to freedom

In her recent commentary “Post-Revolution wilt” (Tuesday), Anna Dolidze focuses on a leaky roof in a Tbilisi airport, which by the way, replaced an old Soviet-style building and is an example of successful foreign investment. She claims that, like the airport roof, the U.S. policy of aid to Georgia is “full of holes” and that it enables authoritarian excess rather than promoting democracy. Unfortunately, Miss Dolidze’s analogy misses the bigger picture; her points are so misleading with most of the presented facts false that one might think the author speaks of another country.

When the current administration, led by President Mikhail Saakashvili, took office three years ago as a result of the Rose Revolution, it inherited an unfathomable legacy of corruption, criminal influence, state weakness and impunity.

Were it not for the assistance of the United States and other countries, Georgia’s sweeping political and economic transformation might not have been possible. And while the path to true democracy is neither quick nor easy, the government of Georgia — with the support of its citizens — has made remarkable and genuine progress.

Just this past year, the World Bank named Georgia the top reformer in the world; the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development identified Georgia as the least corrupt transitional economy; and Freedom House called Georgia one of only a few “bright spots” for liberty amid regression elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. Such accolades are not accidental; they reflect hard work and political resolve.

Georgia values its pluralistic media, where opposing views, including those of harsh government critics, thrive, protected by one of the most liberal legislatures in Europe. Last November Georgian voters overwhelmingly supported the government’s reform agenda on elections recognized as free and fair not only by Western observers, but also by the government’s critics.

A remarkable reduction of corruption and improvement of business climate has resulted in nearly 10 percent economic growth for third consecutive year, the doubling of direct foreign investment in 2006 and a reduction of poverty despite the ongoing economic blockade from Russia.

Introduction of standardized national university admissions exam eliminated rampant corruption in higher education. Soviet-style overcentralized schooling has been reformed, establishing autonomous schools governed by school boards elected by parents and teachers — thus emerging into an important mechanism of participatory democracy.

For the first time in nearly a century, jury trials are being reintroduced into Georgia’s criminal justice proceedings. Time frames of pretrial detention have been significantly reduced and the principle of adversariality and equality introduced, out-of-court statements made inadmissible — thus making forced confessions useless. Our reformed police force with a near 80 percent approval rating is a symbol of new Georgia. The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights commented recently the fact that torture has been institutionally eliminated in Georgia.

New prisons, in line with international standards, accommodating one-third of all Georgia’s inmates, were opened last year, and a new multimillion-dollar prison will open shortly to alleviate overcrowding in other facilities. Yes, the number of inmates rose, but this reflects an effective fight against organized crime and corruption resulting in substantially decreased crime rates and elimination of racketeering.

Despite Georgia’s progress, however, there are still challenges that require our continued effort — and our actions ultimately testify to our commitments.

America does not assist countries like Georgia without ensuring that its money goes to good use. Far from bolstering “totalitarian government,” as Ms. Dolidze’s article mistakenly claims, U.S. aid is improving the lives of Georgia’s most needy citizens because disbursement of this assistance is tied directly to Georgia’s democratic performance. This aid has worked for the good of America and for the good of Georgia’s citizens — an improved security capacity enabled Georgia to intercept Russian weapons-grade uranium for sale on black market. Also, as a result of this assistance, Georgia is emerging into a stable, democratic American ally in an important region of the world that will not need any foreign assistance in foreseeable future.


Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on European Integration

Member of Parliament


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